June 2019

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It makes me happy when I can exercise outside while the girls play.

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Ezra’s brother has been giving the girls all sorts of critters – first crickets, then beetles, and then he brought us some caterpillars that were about to pupate. Unfortunately, they were parasitized since he found them in the wild so although they became chrysalises they never became butterflies.

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Almost every Friday in June we were able to go exploring with friends.

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Strawberry shortcakes for Fathers’ Day.

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A garden friend

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S likes to draw during her rest time – usually it stays on paper…

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We found caterpillars on a family walk – this bush was covered with them!

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S described this flower to me as looking like dumplings. She’s definitely right but I never would have thought of that myself!

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I went a bit overboard with a class assignment to do a presentation on a woman in leadership.

favorite recipes//double chocolate banana bread (used wheat instead of almond flour) // sourdough lemon poppyseed muffins // bibimbap with gochujang sauce // healthy cowboy cookies // candied citrus peel //

best of online// He will carry the lambs in His bosom (Spurgeon devotional) // 7 Reasons nots to Worry // stop google maps from tracking you // the essentials a mom really needs // questions for your relationship before you marry // how to choose a good picture book // is body image my idol? // living books // seven questions to ask your daughter’s boyfriend // preparing now for puberty // the role of children’s literature in a digital age// the “perfect diet” // ten ways not to waste your cancer // kids and screen time // the rightful risks of motherhood // 10 Ways to Not Waste Your Cancer // a simple method to strengthen your prayer life // Jesus, worry, and you //

reading of late// Mixed Ministry (Edwards, Mathews, Rogers) // Parables of the Cross (Trotter) // Liturgy of the Ordinary (audio, Warren) // Until the Day Breaks (St. John) // The Love that was Stronger (Stewart) // A Passion for the Impossible (Rockness)

thinking about// fear is a liar // worry doubts His goodness

The Womb and Childbearing: Heaven Someday and Motherhood Right Now

What happens to the womb in Heaven? Isaiah 65:23 states that in the New Heavens and New Earth “they shall not labor in vain, nor bear children for calamity.”  However, Jesus says that in the resurrection, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matt. 22:30). One answer to this dilemma is to say that Isaiah 65 references a temporary state before eternal heaven. A second solution is that Isaiah is speaking metaphorically of the curse being overturned: in the New Heavens and the New Earth, childbearing will no longer lead to wayward children or happen in a place where children will be attacked. Either way, in the New Heavens and the New Earth, the curse will be overturned and fullness of blessing restored to those who dwell with Christ. The war that was won in Christ is finally over, the Serpent crushed, and sin abolished.

 

What about us right now, living in between the epistles and heaven? There are three unifying themes that come out of tracing the womb and childbearing across scripture that can help us today.
First, we can know childbearing is blessed. Children are viewed as a blessing (Psa. 127:3-5) and having them is commanded (Gen. 1:28). It is something that is longed for (Gen. 30:1-2), while the lack of it is seen as a curse (Deut. 28:18, 53) and judgment (Hosea 9:11-16). In the New Covenant, the church family takes priority, but faithful mothering is encouraged and rewarded (Titus 2:4, 1 Tim. 5:10). The womb is the place God fashions and forms humans made in His image, and thus it should be valued, but not worshiped or seen as an end in itself.

Second, the womb is under the sovereign hand of God. At times, the closing of the womb is due to judgment (though we should always be slow and cautious to point to sin as causing infertility or miscarriage), and infertility is also a sign of a fallen world. However, Scripture often states that it is God who opens or closes the womb (Gen. 29:31). Barrenness is not always a sign of His rebuke, it is also for His glory (John 9:2-3). Not only is conception under His control, but so is the timing of birth and the direction children take once they are born (Psa. 22:9-10). This offers comfort as well as a call to submit to His Lordship.

Third, childbearing is hard. It’s difficult because Satan still wars against the seed of Promise (Rom. 16:20, 1 Peter 5:8). It’s also difficult because of the curse: God told Eve that her toil in childbearing would greatly increase. This is due in part to the basic fallenness of the world, and can explain miscarriage, infertility, postpartum depression, imbalanced hormones, disabilities, birth trauma, and many other things. But childbearing is also hard because of individual sin, such as anger, irritability, selfishness, or pride, to name only a few sins that make the process of growing and raising children more strained.

Finally, childbearing matters. Every child, in and out of the womb, bears God’s image (Gen. 1:27-28), giving them value and worth. The Bible makes it clear that this value begins in the womb (Job 31:13-15). It also matters because it is through the wombs of women that God moved forward redemptive history, choosing to redeem humanity through a God-Man born of a woman, and noting many other times that He opened the womb before men such as Isaac, Joseph, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were born. The womb is, in a sense, one of the primary weapons God has used in the war against Satan and sin, in bringing Jesus to save, assaulting Satan with more of His image, sanctifying mothers, and discipling offspring in Christian homes.

What difference might these truths make in our lives?

  1. A proper biblical theology of the womb and childbearing is necessary in counseling difficulties childbearing brings, such as miscarriage, infertility, and postpartum depression. This allows mothers to place their story within the Story and to understand the value of what they long for while also answering the “why” questions.
  2. There is also application for married couples deciding their family size. Their priorities must be the same as Scripture’s – children should not be had for personal fulfillment, neither should they be refused for earthly motives – and understanding how the Bible speaks to the womb and childbearing will help them see this more clearly.
  3. Likewise, it affects how churches teach on unborn life and childbearing, and also how they treat mothers. Churches should value motherhood, not chide mothers for being taken away from “ministry,” or imply that a woman should do more than stay at home and disciple her children alongside her husband. However, the church should also not let mothers unplug from deep commitment to the body of Christ.
  4. A grounding in the Bible’s teaching on the womb and childbearing offers great encouragement for mothers, especially in moments of difficulty, to explain why it is so hard, but also why it is worth it. In having children, we are filling the earth with more of God’s image, being further formed into His image ourselves, having opportunities to disciple the children in our home 24/7, and testifying to the transformative power of the gospel when our daily family life looks different from that of the world. Childbearing is part of a battle against Satan and our sin, going beyond morning sickness, tantrums, school runs, and curfews. The story of your most mundane moments is set within the greatest Story of God redeeming the world.

The Womb and Childbearing: She Will Be Saved Through… Childbearing?

A discussion of childbearing in the Bible cannot leave out the perplexing text, “she will be saved through childbearing” (1 Tim. 2:15). A better translation would be “preserved through childbearing.”[1]
There are two things this verse certainly does not mean. First, Women’s spiritual salvation is not attained through having children, but through the grace of God alone (Eph. 2:8-10). Second, it also cannot mean that Christian women will not die in childbirth as history shows otherwise.

Three possible interpretations for this passage will be considered here. One, women will be saved through the birth of the Child, Christ.[2] But there are grammatical difficulties with this interpretation,[3] and it is strange considering the second half of the verse, “if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control,” unless the second half points only to the demonstration of preserving faith. In this interpretation, “Woman may not lead man, and Eve brought about the fall by her sinful leading, but the woman’s role is still significant in God’s plan, for through her the Savior was born.”[4]

Two, Paul may be “teaching that, even though a woman bears the stigma of being the initial instrument who led the race into sin, it is women through childbearing who may be preserved or freed from that stigma by raising a generation of godly children.”[5]

Three, “Paul means that women will find salvation not in addressing meetings but in motherhood, which is their crowning glory,”[6] lessening the blow of women not being able to exercise authority over a man.[7] Thus, “one evidence (though clearly not an essential evidence) of a woman’s salvation may be seen in her decision to function in this role.”[8] Due to the grammatical difficulties with option one, this seems more likely. Paul references Eve, but “the final fleeting allusion to the Genesis account develops into the instruction to women (plural) generally to “work out their salvation” in the domestic sphere by ensuring that they manifest the marks of authentic Christian existence.”[9]

Yet whatever the exact meaning, this verse emphasizes the important role childbearing has played in redemptive history and the value it still has in the New Covenant. It also shows that women cannot rely on bearing children as a sign of spirituality: she must continue in faith, love, holiness, and self-control.

Thus, in the church age, while the primary focus is on discipleship and spiritual growth, teaching on the family and the roles of women proves that childbearing is still valued and significant.

[1] Philip H. Towner, “1-2 Timothy and Titus,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos, 2007), 895.

[2] John R. W. Stott, Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 87.

[3] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), 1 Ti 2:15.

[4] George W. III Knight, “1-2 Timothy/Titus,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 1105.

[5] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.,2005), 1784

[6] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, 3rd ed. fully rev. and updated., The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 77.

[7] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), 1 Ti 2:15.

[8] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), 1 Ti 2:15.

 

[9] Philip H. Towner, “1-2 Timothy and Titus,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos, 2007), 897–898.

The Womb and Childbearing: Is the Womb Still Important?

Israel has returned from the judgment of exile, and after years and years of silence, God is visibly at work once more. This time, He chooses to use the wombs of an old, barren woman, Elizabeth, and a betrothed virgin, Mary.

In Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15). Hence, he leaps for joy when Mary approaches with Jesus in utero (Luke 1:41-44). This again shows the sovereignty of God over the womb and points to the personhood of the unborn. Even more, it shows God at work in the war against the Serpent.

But the most important unborn child is Jesus, who for a time dwells in Mary’s womb. This does not make wombs holy, but does show again how God is using a process sin made more difficult to redeem women and men from their sin. The virgin Mary miraculously bears a son (Luke 1:30-33) who will fulfill the prophecies Isaiah gave, and will save the people from their sins, fulfilling God’s promise to Adam and Eve. The long-awaited Seed has finally arrived.

But the seed of the Serpent is also at work: Satan, through Herod, once again tries to thwart the plan of God to bring salvation through the offspring of the woman by slaughtering babies (Matt. 2:16-18). Yet God protects Jesus, and in His ministry the way physical offspring are viewed develops.

First, in John 3, Jesus makes it clear that more important than physical birth is spiritual re-birth (3:4). The physical family of a person is not what is important for salvation, being born of the Spirit is (John 8:39-47). Secondly, while God used Mary and her womb as an integral part of His plan, more blessed than Jesus’ physical family are His spiritual family, those who obey Him (Luke 11:27-28, 8:19-21). Thirdly, the Great Commission echoes the Cultural Mandate given in Genesis 1:28 but shifts its focus. The nation of Israel grew largely through physical means, but the Great Commission changes the emphasis of the church to disciple-making, and this is why there is a valuable place for those who are eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom (Matt. 19:12).

Through the cross and Resurrection, sin and the Serpent are defeated, but not yet destroyed. The war is won, but not over.

Jesus is the ultimate Seed promised to Eve, the high point of childbearing. Jesus’ teachings shifted the emphasis of the Kingdom from the physical reproduction of ethnic Israel in biological families to spiritual reproduction and the family of God, united by the faith of Abraham. The Seed of Promise now grows through spiritual regeneration rather than physical birth. What place, then, if any, does the womb have in the New Covenant, the time after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when the promised Seed has already come?

The epistles hold answers to this question. God is still sovereign over all things, therefore so is the womb and all that happens inside it, including calling people to Himself from before birth (Gal. 1:15). In Galatians 4:27, Paul quotes the promise given to barren Jerusalem about becoming fruitful, applying it to the growth of the church, her spiritual offspring. While there are many reasons the barren woman can rejoice in the New Covenant because of redemption, the primary application of Isaiah 54:1 is metaphorical. Still, Paul’s usage of Isaiah 54 begs the question: if Old Testament mothers exulted because they bore the seed of Promise, but now the spiritual mother exults over and grows through spiritual offspring, is the womb obsolete as a weapon for the Kingdom? 

            What role does physical childbearing have in the New Covenant? Teaching regarding the family centers mostly on familial relations and behavior, with no explicit mention of how many children to have or even whether or not to have them. The primary means by which God builds His Kingdom is now through spiritual discipleship rather than physical offspring. Does this negate the blessings of physical children spoken of in the Old Testament, if childbearing happens within Kingdom ethics and Kingdom priorities? While Paul writes about remaining single for the sake of the Kingdom (1 Cor. 7:32-34), the argument of remaining childless “for the sake of the Kingdom” cannot be directly made, because once married one can no longer claim single-mindedness to the things of the Lord. Also, while not the primary purpose of marriage, children are a part of the pre-fall design of marriage (Gen. 1:28). This is shown in Paul’s letter to Titus, when he admonishes the older women to teach younger women to “love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4), but is also clear in Paul’s teaching in 1 Timothy regarding widows. Older widows are to be enrolled only if they have brought up children (1 Tim. 5:10), showing that Paul values the character-shaping and character-proving journey of motherhood, as well as the value of children, and the importance of providing for those in the church. Perhaps more significantly, Paul even urges the younger widows to remarry and have children (1 Tim. 5:14)! He views marriage and childbearing as intertwined. So then, the focus of spiritual family and discipleship in the New Covenant does not negate the joy and importance of physical childbearing. This joy is not subjective, but comes from reproducing the image of God in the new child and the great contribution to the Kingdom of God that comes from a Christian family. But this is within the framework of the New Covenant, where the church is the primary “family” for believers, discipleship must be happening, and that while a blessing, children are not an end in themselves.

The Womb and Childbearing: Old Testament Summary

The Old Testament explains that childbearing is a part of God’s good, original plan for men and women to reproduce, filling the earth with His image. However, sin led to that good design being filled with difficulty, but sin does not negate the good design. In fact, God then chooses to use childbearing as one of the primary ways He works to bring redemption. The rest of the Old Testament highlights the pain in childbearing women face, including infertility, death in childbirth, and wayward children. It emphasizes that children are a greatly desired blessing (Psa. 17:14, 127:3, 128; Prov. 30:16, 1 Samuel 1, Gen. 30:1-24), but conversely, that one form God’s judgment takes is barrenness, miscarriage, and the death of children. The Old Testament, especially the Psalms (Psa. 22:9-10, 58:3, 71:6, 139:13, Job 31:18), also reveals God’s sovereignty over the opening and closing of the womb – the place God fashions every image-bearing, valuable human (Job 31:13-15), and from where He sets apart His own (Judg. 13:5). The climax of this theme in the Old Testament is the promise that a Virgin shall bear a child, Immanuel, the hope of Eve.

The Womb and Childbearing: Warring Seed and Difficult Childbearing

The next step of God’s plan comes in the Abrahamic Covenant, when God promises Abraham offspring. But his wife Sarah is barren, sign of the fall at work. Abraham and Sarah don’t believe childbearing is possible due to Sarah’s old age (Gen. 17:15-21, 18:11-14). Here God’s sovereignty over the womb is first emphasized: what seems scientifically impossible is made possible. God again chooses to move redemptive history forward through women bearing children.

            In the next generation, Isaac’s wife Rebekah is barren until he prays to God for her, who then gives her twins (Gen. 25:21). Before they are born, God selects which one of the twins will continue the line of promise begun with Eve (Gen. 25:23-24). God knows what is in the womb, and not only that, but He chooses His people from the womb (Gen. 25:23-24).  With Leah and Rachel, God is again the one who opens and closes the womb (Gen. 29:31, 30:22). This is done to forward His plan of redemption, but barren wombs and the danger of childbearing (Gen. 35:16-19) – including Rachel’s death giving birth – also point to the curse.

The desirability and blessing of a fruitful womb are also seen: Rachel desires children more than life (Gen. 30:1-2), and Jacob blesses Joseph with the “blessings of the breasts and of the womb” (Gen. 49:25).

And Israel is blessed. The seed of the woman continues to grow, and when Exodus begins, God’s people are numerous. But the seed of the Serpent strikes, slaughtering male Hebrew infants. God’s plan is moving forward, yet the war is still waging.  God rescues His people from slavery in Egypt, using a plague that brought death on many firstborn of Egypt. When He makes the Mosaic Covenant with the Israelites in the wilderness, He builds on the foundation already laid for the importance of fruitfulness, but reiterates that childbearing truly is a blessing, not a right. Fruitfulness comes when there is faithfulness: the blessings for following His law includes fruitful wombs and children – the fruit of the womb – being blessed (Deut. 7:12-14, 28:4, 11). But for disobedience, the fruit of the womb will be cursed (Deut. 28:18, 53; Num. 5:22-28). Israel can only function as warriors against the seed of the Serpent when they are following God. But the curses are not irreversible: the fruit of the womb will be abundantly prosperous again when there is repentance and forgiveness (Deut. 30).

That said, Hannah’s story with Samuel shows that unfaithfulness is not the only reason God closes the womb. Her womb is closed so that God may open it for His praise and purposes (1 Sam. 1:5-6, 1 Sam. 2:1-7).

God’s moves His plan forward again in His covenant with David, when He promises that a descendant of David would be raised up to rule forever. Although the womb is not mentioned directly (2 Sam. 7:12), God is once again using it to bring redemption.

But David’s line crumbles, and the Prophets foretell destruction. They also repeat themes of God’s hand in the womb (Is. 49:1; Jer. 1:5) and His care of His people from the womb onwards (Is. 46:3).

However, the focus of the prophets regarding childbearing and the womb is on the curses of the Mosaic Covenant coming to pass (Is. 51:17-19). In their idolatry, Israel is no longer waging war against the Serpent, but joining his side in turning from God. The rise of the seed of Promise that peaked with David is in decline, and with the decline comes explicit prophecies regarding the curses of Deuteronomy 28 coming upon Israel (Hos. 9:11-16). The Lord will give them dry breasts and a miscarrying womb, and even if they bear children, the “precious ones of their womb” will be slain. This stomach-churning language is shocking, especially coming from the God who blesses fruitfulness and in whose image these children are made. But it shows the seriousness of sin in the face of the holiness of God. The death of precious infants and pain of miscarrying wombs are what are deserved by those who dare to sin against a holy, just, righteous God. Anything else is blessing and grace, given as God sustains the world while He progresses His plan of redemption, using both blessing and difficulty to bring people to repentance (Hos. 14:2).

But there is also positive anticipation in the midst of decline: God provides further detail about the Seed of the Woman. What Eve hoped Cain would be is coming: the virgin will bear a son and He will be called Immanuel, God with us (Is. 7:14). This child, the Mighty God Himself, will rule justly and righteously (Is. 9:6-7). Israel is being warned of captivity and suffering – the curses of Deuteronomy 28 – and yet she is also given hope, not only of Immanuel, but also of a future when the barren woman – a sign of cursed Jerusalem[1] – becomes fruitful once more after the Suffering Servant has borne their sins (Is. 53:12-54:8).

 

[1] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 7 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 525.

The Womb and Childbearing: Introduction and Creation

It’s probably safe to say that almost everyone agrees being a mom is hard. Pregnancy mood swings. Pain in childbirth. Sleepless nights. Little to no time for yourself. Most women say that in the end it’s worth it, but our culture increasingly sends a contradictory message. Your career is more important. Kids keep you from contributing to society. They’re a drag on the economy. It’s best to avoid them, or tolerate and complain about them if you didn’t. But sometimes we hear the opposite from society: being a mom will complete you. It’s the answer to your deepest longings. If you can’t have kids, you’re not as much of a woman. Which message is right? Are either of them? In the church, something even different is said: “children are a blessing, but only God can satisfy.” This is true, but only scratches the surface of what the Bible has to say about children, the process of childbearing, and the significance of the womb. What value is there in having children? Why are babies targeted for slaughter (Exod. 1:15-22, Matt. 2:16-18, abortion)? Is conception just a matter of science? Are children still important in non-agrarian societies and the New Covenant? Why is having children so hard? The Bible offers rich answers to these questions, equipping moms to sift through the barrage of conflicting voices to find truth. It’s not often as simple as one verse or passage. These answers come by looking at how the understanding of the womb and childbearing develop across the canon of Scripture.

The Bible starts with a creation account, and it’s there we first catch a glimpse of God’s plan for the womb. In Genesis 1, each living thing is created “according to its kind” (Gen. 1:11-12, 21, 24-25), and the birds and fish are blessed to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:22). This pattern is echoed but expanded when God creates humans. Man is created in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). God then blesses them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). When they do this, Adam and Eve will be filling the earth not just with more humans, but more of their kind – the image of God.

But then Adam and Eve sinned, rejecting the natural authority of their Creator. As a result, fruitfulness becomes more difficult. Eve will now bring forth children in pain and toil (Gen. 3:16). The blessing of having children will be intertwined with trouble. Not only does it become harder for Eve personally, but there is now a war between the seed of the Serpent and the seed of the woman, the promised offspring of her womb (Gen. 3:15). She is told, however, that in this war, her offspring will ultimately prevail. This gives Eve hope: even though childbearing will be painful, the womb will be an instrumental tool in moving forward God’s plan of redemption and a primary weapon in the war between the seed of the Serpent and the seed of Promise. Eve seems to remembers this when Cain and later Seth are born; her words show that she hopes they will be the snake crusher (Gen. 4:1, 25).[1]  Instead, Cain becomes the first in a long string of proof that having children will now be filled with pain and toil which extend beyond the physical pain of childbirth.

After the flood, the importance of physical fruitfulness is re-emphasized in the Noahic Covenant – the promise God makes to Noah that He won’t flood the whole earth again. God also repeats the command to “be fruitful and multiply,” showing that this design, while marred, isn’t cancelled by humanity’s fall (Gen. 9:1-7).

So in the opening acts of Scripture, it’s shown “that the woman should bear children was the original will of God;” but sin brings “a punishment that henceforth she was to bear them in sorrow.”[2] In Creation and the Noahic Covenant, this original plan is emphasized. In Eve it’s shown to be an integral part of God’s plan of redemption, both in its ultimate fulfillment in the Seed, Jesus and moving His plan forward to that day.

[1] Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967), 75–76.

[2] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 64.